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Superintendent’s Initial Assessment and Recommendations Report

Establishing Relationships and Leading for 21st Century College and Career Expectations

Proposed by: David F. Lewis January 25, 2014

Robert P. Varner Chairman District 5 Patricia Hugley-Green Vice Chairman District 1 Cathy Williams At-Large John Wells District 2

Athavia J. Senior District 3 Naomi Buckner District 4 Mark Cantrell District 6 Shannon Smallman District 7 Beth Harris District 8

The Muscogee County School District is committed to providing educational experiences that will enable each student to become a lifelong learner, enter the workforce with necessary skills, and achieve academic and personal potential.

-- DRAFT -Table of Contents
Introduction…………………………………………………………………………...…3 The Compelling Why…….…………………………………………………………...…4 Four Overarching Areas Establishing a School System versus a System of Schools…………………………......5 Creating a Culture of Deliberate Urgency, High Expectations, and Pride………..….....5 Creating and Supporting Leadership for Instructional Improvement Focused on Learning ………………………….……………………………………………………..7 Establishing Clear Expectations and Transparent Accountability for All Employees……………………………………………………………………………….7 The Journey Begins: Reinventing the Future Priority: Full-Option Graduation………………………………………………………..8 Priority: Learning………………………………...…………………………………….11 Priority: Equity, Culture, and Context…………………………………………………15 Priority: High-Quality Staff……………………………………………………………19 Priority: Operations…………………………………………………………………….21 Priority: Communications and Transparent Accountability…………………………...25 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………..27 Appendices….……………………………………………………………………...29-30 Listen and Learn Acknowledgements………………………………………...……31-32

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-- DRAFT -Introduction
During the interview process and subsequent hiring as Superintendent of Education for the Muscogee County School District (MSCD), David Lewis presented the School Board and community at large with a Superintendent’s Entry Plan. In the plan, he outlined the goals and the activities that would be completed during the first 120 days of his tenure as the primary servant leader of the school district. The main objective of the plan was to provide the opportunity to initiate a “listening and learning tour” which would provide first-hand knowledge of the District’s capacity, areas requiring growth, and stakeholder aspirations throughout the school community and community at large. Phase One: Listening Over the past four (4) months since his arrival, Superintendent Lewis has met with students, support staff, teachers, administrators, parents, partner organizations, political leaders, key community stakeholders, and School Board members. In addition, he has attended numerous school and community events throughout Muscogee County and Fort Benning to hear stakeholder input. Phase Two: Assessing and Planning As a result of his fifty-eight (58) school/center visits, department meetings, and community appearances, Superintendent Lewis has been able to gather and analyze numerous school, district, state and regional reports, and has studied current research and best practices in order to prepare this report. Phase Three: Leading Realizing every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets, Superintendent Lewis will present an overview of his findings and recommendations going forward to the School Board on January 25, 2014. These recommendations will provide an overview of how he intends to lead the school district with a deliberate sense of urgency in a bold, transformational change effort which is necessary to achieve its stated mission: providing educational experiences that will enable each student to become a lifelong learner, enter the workforce with necessary skills, and achieve academic and personal potential. The report’s format is comprised of overarching areas followed by the District’s accolades and attributes, primary challenges and barriers, and recommendations for immediate, near-and long- term initiatives relative to each finding. The report’s major findings are categorized as follows:     
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Graduation Rate Learning Equity, Culture, and Context High-Quality Staff Operations
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-- DRAFT - Communication and Transparent Accountability Although the bulk of the recommendations are presented for the first time in this report, some immediate actions have already been taken when there was an urgent need, such as the recommended adoption and purchase of a district-wide reading series for grades K-5, the initial development of an electronic early warning system, and the appointment of Mrs. Rebecca Braaten as Assistant Superintendent of Education. Superintendent Lewis has addressed these issues and others in his preparation for the reorganization of MCSD for greater efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and his presentation to the MCSD Board of Education relative to his reform plan. It should be acknowledged that the full execution of the plan was envisioned over the period of a decade in order to reach its full fruition. It is also important to note that one of the downfalls of many school districts is attempting to address too many initiatives at once, ultimately resulting in a lack of focus and resources necessary for success. Therefore, it will be essential to prioritize efforts and limit major district-wide initiatives to no more than three at any one time to ensure fidelity of implementation and appropriate evaluation. Likewise, similar to the District’s Strategic Plan, this is a living document which will continue to evolve due to changes in priorities, funding, legislation, etc. This report is not only intended to reflect the assessment and recommendations of the Superintendent after one hundred, twenty (120) days, but also to serve as a catalyst for dialogue and engagement with those from all school and community stakeholders who care deeply about how we educate the next generation of Muscogee County children. Above all, it is a call to action.

The Compelling Why
A successful school system is one in which all stakeholders work collaboratively to achieve excellence, regardless of the challenges they encounter. The mission, vision, values, and goals are clearly articulated and understood, becoming the North Star for the district and the focus of all efforts. A successful school system places a priority on high expectations and achievement for all students. To accomplish this, successful schools focus on individual student needs, instructional leadership, fiscal responsibility, safe and orderly environments, rigorous standards, best practices, and productive school and community partnerships. A successful school system utilizes resources like technology and human capital to streamline operations and enhance instruction. Most importantly, a successful school system is focused on the future and providing a worldclass education for all students. In order to meet the School Boards’ goal of ensuring a successful school system and Superintendent Lewis’ expectation of becoming a premier school system in Georgia,

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-- DRAFT -four overarching areas must permeate the organization and guide its work. These areas are as follows: 1. Establishing a School System versus a System of Schools 2. Creating a Culture of Deliberate Urgency, High Expectations, and Pride 3. Creating and Supporting Leadership for Instructional Improvement Focused on Learning 4. Establishing Clear Expectations and Transparent Accountability for All Employees All constituents must see the system as one of excellence and equity, one that offers each student equitable opportunities to achieve excellent outcomes and one that is recognized as a privilege in which to work.

Establishing a School System versus a System of Schools
The Muscogee County School District recently developed and adopted a new Strategic Plan with the assistance of The Leadership Institute of Columbus State University, which clarified the District’s beliefs and values. The mission and vision were not updated when the Strategic Plan was finalized. As a result, an external accreditation team cited the need to revisit the District’s purpose and direction (mission and vision statement) to ensure that it communicates the District’s values and beliefs, builds understanding for educating all students, and is implemented with fidelity. An agreed upon shared purpose and direction is essential for guiding decision making and for building a collaborative learning community. The District also has many of the components of a district improvement framework in place and there are several schools within the district that serve as “islands of excellence.” However, stakeholders expressed the need for formalizing and unifying the process to ensure district and school alignment. Thus, a district-wide school improvement process that is systemic (global), systematic (method), sustainable, and transparent is necessary to support increased student achievement and to improve organizational effectiveness. Stakeholders also raised concerns regarding district policies and procedures, which have been perceived to be inconsistent and sometimes unclear. Therefore, there is a demonstrated need for the review of current district-wide policies, procedures, and practices, as well as the development and consistent implementation of new ones, as warranted. Doing so would further enhance transparency and confidence through the system. A shared purpose and direction in concert with updated policies, procedures, and practices would lead to greater organizational efficiencies, effectiveness, accountability, as well as more equitable treatment and support throughout the system.

Creating a Culture of Deliberate Urgency, High Expectations, and Pride
The Muscogee County School District has experienced both positive and concerning
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-- DRAFT -news relative to recent student performance indicators. On the positive side, MCSD has made consistent, incremental gains as demonstrated by progress on state assessments and a five-point improvement on the recently implemented national cohort graduation rate. On the down side, since the early 2000s, MCSD had historically outperformed its comparison districts within the state on several performance indicators. However, the demographics that determined MCSD’s comparison districts at that time have changed and Muscogee has now slipped from being the number one district in its comparison group to middle of the pack with those to whom it is now compared. This is a trend that obviously must be reversed and warrants a sense of urgency in order for the District to regain its top peer ranking on its way to becoming the premiere school district in Georgia that all Muscogee residents desire. Great opportunities often come from seemingly insoluble problems. The Muscogee County School District (MCSD) has both a unique opportunity and a formidable challenge in terms of addressing two types of student performance gaps that currently exist within the district and are adversely impacting its outcomes. Like the vast majority of school districts throughout the country, Muscogee County is faced with the ethical and moral dilemma of a significant achievement gap between African-American and Hispanic students and their White and Asian peers. Furthermore, in addition to the needs of students with disabilities, the MCSD is experiencing an increase in the number of English Language Learners (students whose primary first language is something other than English) and it can be expected this population will only continue to grow. Reducing the disparities between various student sub-groups is both a moral and pragmatic imperative for individual students as well as the collective well-being of our community and security of our country’s future. As worthy as it may be for the MCSD to regain the top spot among its comparison districts and to become the premiere district in the state, they are not sufficient and must only be viewed as milestones on the path to national and international competitiveness. In addition to reducing the disparities between various student subgroups, there is another gap known as the global achievement gap - the gap between what even our country’s best schools are teaching and testing versus what all students will need to be successful learners, workers, and citizens in a global knowledge economy. Regrettably, the cut scores on Georgia’s state assessment tests that determine proficiency have been set woefully low and are nowhere near those of upper tier states that are often used for international comparisons such as Massachusetts and Connecticut. Therefore, it must be a goal of the Muscogee County School District to not only reduce the performance gap between sub-groups, but equally important to raise the expectations for all students to achieve at high levels of performance. This is particularly important in order for our students to be globally competitive with their peers in Singapore, Korea, and Finland - the top performing countries in the world. The goals above are indeed aspirational but attainable if there is the support,
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-- DRAFT -commitment, and availability of resources from stakeholders to foster the culture of urgency and high expectations for the elements of this plan and its execution. It should be noted that the term urgency in this context does not imply haste or panic, but rather thoughtful, planned, and deliberate action in addressing and meeting the social, emotional, and educational needs of students. This is generally accomplished when expectations are clear, where there is a shared sense of purpose and responsibility, and focused support toward common goals. Efficient utilization of resources and the equitable distribution of new and more effective resources obtained through the diligent examination of expenditures and subsequent recommendations for savings are essential to aggressively pursuing equity and excellence. Tea m

Creating and Supporting Leadership for Instructional Improvement Focused on Learning
Leadership matters. While it could be argued that the actions of school and district leaders do not directly impact or cause student achievement, the research of Marzano, Waters, & McNulty (2005) indicates that school and district leaders can indeed have a powerful causal effect on student achievement. Therefore, instructional improvement is the primary responsibility of school and district leaders. It is and should be the essence of servant leadership in the district. In this spirit, one educational saying that holds true is that there are only two groups of employees in a school district — teachers and those that support teachers. Teachers must have high expectations for their students and be equipped with the content knowledge base and instructional pedagogy to analyze student data and differentiate instruction to meet the diverse needs of students with a focus on learning rather than simply the process of teaching. Toward this end, teachers must be provided access to equitable, high-quality resources and facilities. They are entitled to support, meaningful coaching, mentoring, and feedback by school and district leaders. The proposed district-wide reorganization described later in this document is designed to ensure increased support, assistance, and accountability for schools through district regions that subtly begin to break down the “north – south” divide that exists throughout the district.

Establishing Clear Expectations and Transparent Accountability for All Employees
School systems that consistently demonstrate efficiency and improvement do so by establishing clear goals, monitoring progress, and aggressively maintaining a transparent accountability system that is accessible by all stakeholders. Once school, department or systemic goals are established, it is incumbent upon school or district leadership to provide the support, training, equipment, and tools
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-- DRAFT -necessary for staff members to meet the expectations. Observations and evidence revealed a school system that lacked alignment for optimal student success. In some instances, key leaders were appointed from positions of success to positions for which they held minimal experience or background. Essential functions have been absent such as the capacity to conduct research, or have been artificially divided. In addition to being a waste of resources and collaborative potential, this leads to a lack of accountability where it is most needed – at the student level. Moreover, this leads to three major questions:  What impact do the efforts of the adults in the system have on student outcomes?  How will leaders be held accountable for contributing to student outcomes and systemic goals?  How are decisions made on resource allocation without a holistic approach to student needs? The lack of appropriate support, transparency, and accountability led to an early determination that a reorganization was imperative. This entails the realignment of current supervisory oversight, communication, and resource allocation (including human capital) from its current centralized structure to three geographic regions — West, Central, and East (see Appendices A and B). The realignment will require revisions to current job descriptions and the creation of new ones to oversee and support schools in the important areas of teaching/learning, student services, professional learning, and day-to-day operations. Academically, if predictable variability among our schools is the problem, then differentiation of resources is a solution. This is often a new way of thinking about equity: equity does not mean equal resources, it means equal opportunity. The reality is that resources may have to be intentionally adjusted to provide equal opportunity. In other words, more money, more talent, and more time may be essential to better serve the highest-need students toward achieving equal opportunity for all children.

The Journey Begins: Reinventing the Future

Priority: Full-Option Graduation
Increasing the number and percentage of full-option graduates is the primary job of all Muscogee County School District employees and the culminating indicator of systemic success. A full-option graduate is academically prepared to enter the workforce, military, or post-secondary training or educational institution directly after high school. Developing a full-option graduation mentality begins in early childhood and continues throughout a student’s elementary, middle, and high school experience. In highly successful communities, this entails a committed and collaborative relationship

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-- DRAFT -between the home, school, and community at large.

Accolades and Attributes
As previously noted, the recent MCSD national cohort graduation rate increased by five (5) percentage points while surpassing state averages in both rate and growth.

In addition, the vast majority of student subgroups also exceeded state graduation averages.


91.2 78.9 80.7 72.1 64.3 67.8 62.4 64.4 56.7 43.8


71.5 72.8

74.9 74.5 68.5 63.4







State Graduation Rate

MCSD Graduation Rate

Career and technical programs are effective and growing. Last school year, there were one hundred, sixty-four (164) students enrolled in Work-Based Learning or Youth Apprenticeship programs, one thousand, forty-five (1045) students who completed a career-technical pathway, and two hundred, ninety-nine (299) students who received nationally recognized credentials through passing an End of Pathway Assessment. There is a demonstrated interest in early childhood education as evidenced by the
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-- DRAFT -District’s pre-kindergarten enrollment which has led to a capacity enrollment of eleven hundred (1100) students excluding Head Start with six hundred, two (602) slots available for three year olds (266) and four year olds (336). Approximately half of the incoming kindergarteners attend some form of early childhood education public program.

Primary Challenges and Barriers
The Muscogee County School District has a large and diverse student population with a growing number of overage, transient, special education, and English Language Learner students. There currently is not a comprehensive systemic and systematic approach to addressing the needs of all students toward achieving full-option graduation. Impediments toward this end include the lack of alternative education options for traditional and non-traditional student learning. Given current budgetary and state programmatic restrictions, there are approximately four hundred, eight (408) students on the pre-kindergarten waiting list who are unable to be served. Furthermore, the school district does not have direct access to provide daily instruction to the Head Start students.

Planned Initiatives Immediate
 Develop and launch an Early Warning System to track student milestones (grades, credits, attendance, and discipline) to alert school personnel and parents of the need to proactively implement additional student support and interventions  Allocate a graduation coach to assist secondary schools within each proposed region  Review pre-kindergarten program to determine cost effectiveness of current model versus other state allowable options  Implement a drop-out retrieval program to re-engage at-risk students

 Develop non-fiction based pre-kindergarten curriculum aligned to the expectations of the Georgia Early Learning Standards (GELS)  Establish an accelerated academic pipeline at the elementary and middle level  Explore the expansion of additional career and technical programming in the areas of aviation/aerospace, engineering/manufacturing, information technology, healthcare, transaction/processing, and tourism  Implement the Readistep assessment in eighth grade district-wide as a predictor for accelerated coursework at the high school level  Establish a local virtual (on-line) franchise owned and operated by MCSD  Explore the creation of a district-wide career and technical secondary school  Utilize re-entry forms to monitor and ensure support for overage and under credited students as they return to the school system
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-- DRAFT - Petition to establish the first public Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Program school in the state of Georgia  Elicit perspectives of students, educators, and parents to gain insight regarding barriers and potential solutions

 Expand access and utilization of graduation coaches for each secondary school within the proposed region  Identify funding sources to establish, if approved, the first Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Program school in the state of Georgia  Collaborate with the CollegeBoard to offer an Advanced Placement Cambridge Capstone Program and Credential  Harness the power of non-profits to provide expanded student supports  Develop Peer Leader programs at all high schools to train interested seniors to mentor freshman as they transition to high school

Priority: Learning
The Muscogee County School District must prepare all students to meet or exceed appropriate grade level proficiency as they transition through the pre-K through 12th grade program. For purposes of this document, initiatives associated with learning outcomes will include curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The area of teaching and learning is obviously a large and complex one that makes it difficult to provide a comprehensive analysis of the many related aspects of a large and diverse district within 120 days. Nonetheless, through the review of supporting documents, stakeholder interviews and personal observations, three broad themes emerged. They are:  Predictable variability of performance among schools  Alignment of district organization to support schools and classrooms, and  Increasing the expectations and rigor associated with requisite standards for 21st Century learning and global competitiveness.

Accolades and Attributes
The Muscogee County School District is commended for its recent efforts in moving toward a standards-based approach and curriculum mapping process. There is evidence of an infusion of research-based instructional practices, which has been supplemented by the District’s continuing professional relationships with Columbus State University and Columbus Technical College. The Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) has afforded the district the opportunity to purchase instructional technology and upgrades for the implementation of digitized instructional resources that would otherwise not be possible. Likewise, the joint venture with the Greater Columbus Partners in Education (PIE) provides additional human capital in the form of volunteers that further support local schools and has garnered both state and national awards as
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-- DRAFT -an exemplary model of school/community partnerships. Furthermore, the mutually beneficial relationship between the MCSD, the Columbus Museum, the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, the Coca-Cola Space Museum, Springer Opera House, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Goodwill Industries, and the National Infantry Museum all serve as a value added extension of the classroom that is unique to the MCSD. Industrial Schools within the district have garnered state awards and national recognition for their excellence with respect to academic achievement, quality of instruction, and school-family partnerships. Since 1984, twelve (12) district schools have been designated as Georgia Schools of Excellence and five (5) have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Primary Challenges and Barriers
As noted previously, while some individual schools within the district are performing overall at a high level, many students within the schools are not realizing individual learning gains that should become an expectation for all students within the district. Performance gaps remain persistently stagnant between the performance of White and Asian students and their African-American and Hispanic counterparts. Disparities in student outcomes also exist between special education, limited English proficient, and economically disadvantaged students, all of who contribute to school performance designations assessed by the state as part of its accountability program. As one example, the only MCSD student sub-group that fell below the state average in the most recent graduation rate was that of student with disabilities. This can be directly attributed to the evidence that suggests that the instructional practices and policies related to addressing the needs of these students is significantly behind that of other states considered to be progressive and successful in reducing these gaps. Likewise, variability exists in the identification of gifted and talented students which points to the need for implementing an early and consistent method for identifying, documenting, and serving students with accelerated instructional opportunities and programming. In addition to variability of performance and student subgroups, inconsistency is also evident between similar schools throughout the district. This leads to the prevalent perception of inequity that divides the north and south areas of the district by the artificial divide of Macon Road sometimes referred to as the “Macon Dixon Line.” Although a concerted effort has been made in recent years to address this longstanding issue in the community, such as the reconstruction of George Washington Carver High School and the current construction of Dorothy Height
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-- DRAFT -Elementary School, a disparity remains and must continue to be addressed going forward. This should include the proposed system-wide organizational restructuring and the coordination of district resources directed toward classrooms, teachers, and students based on appropriate formative and summative data elements. In light of the increasing standards of a globally competitive knowledge economy, it must be the goal of the MCSD and its stakeholders to not only reduce the participation and performance gaps between student subgroups, but equally important to raise the expectations for all students to achieve at high levels of performance. This must begin with an emphasis on early childhood education and proficiency at the highest levels in literacy and math by the end of third grade. This focus on literacy must be continued throughout all grade levels and a systemic and systematic approach to realizing a comprehensive pre-K-12 curriculum is essential to ensure coherence throughout. In a knowledge-based economy, education is the key to individual success as well as local and national prosperity. Certainly science, technology, engineering and math are critical disciplines in ensuring our global competiveness, but so, too, are the arts for the creativity and innovation they foster. This is an area in which our country has long held a strong competitive advantage over other industrial nations. However, many countries are now embracing creativity and imagination while ours is increasingly fixated on multiple-choice testing that will only weaken our nation’s competitive advantage in this area. For this reason, it is important to revisit the past successes of music programs in the MCSD that were once recognized as premier musical organizations throughout the country. With respect to history and literature, these are the disciplines and vehicles by which we transmit our democratic principles, values, heritage, and culture to future generations. Through the further expansion of world languages and career and technical course offerings, as well as emphasizing the connection between physical education and the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, we can ensure a well-rounded future generation.

Planned Initiatives Immediate
 Examine the current elementary scheduling model to optimize student access to all subject areas and to afford a consistent approach for teacher common planning time  Modify the middle and high school scheduling models to include dedicated time for teacher common planning and student Increased Learning Time (ILT)  Fully implement regional reorganization to provide dedicated support through professional learning specialists, content specialists, and regional chiefs  Ensure evidence-based, collaborative, teacher common planning time is consistent and pervasive across the district
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-- DRAFT - Begin development of a comprehensive and aligned (horizontally and vertically) district-wide K-12 curriculum in all disciplines, seeking input from teachers, school-based administrators, and district leadership  Revise and develop a comprehensive plan that outlines district policies, procedures, and practices as a student progresses from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade  Adopt district-wide elementary mathematics instructional materials  Refine district formative and summative assessments to ensure validity and reliability

 Review the current School Improvement Plan (SIP) process to ensure alignment and determine potential enhancements  Emphasize the utilization of high-yield instructional strategies that have the greatest impact on student achievement (extended thinking, summarizing, vocabulary in context, advance organizers, and non-verbal representations)  Explore software to assist with the identification of strategies and the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Special Education students  Focus on instructional practices critical to raising achievement and reducing the achievement gap (previewing, a school-wide instructional planning model, reading comprehension in all subjects and courses, writing across the curriculum, and differentiated assignments with choice)  Assess the current degree of “soft skills” instruction (active listening, goal setting, self-initiative, time management, conflict resolution, etc.)  Adopt district-wide secondary literacy and mathematics instructional materials  Finalize performance pattern analysis for both high performing and underperforming schools  Continue to examine variance in performance across schools by student subgroup and match with identified “best practices” from high achieving schools  Continue to enhance data team review protocol for school-based leadership teams and district level administrators to problem-solve collectively and allocate necessary resources  Continue tiered support and intensive interventions to high priority schools  Establish model classrooms to restructure K-3 environment for transitional regrouping of retained students with a proven highly effective teacher (differentiated pay)  Address issues of underrepresentation and overrepresentation in specific programs  Strengthen special education and English language learner instruction through tiered support for teachers and students  Reform and restructure alternative education programs for at-risk and overage students  Improve literacy (reading and writing) and mathematics instruction while targeting intervention for deficiencies throughout the district  Collaborate with Columbus Technical College toward initiation of high-quality career and technical pathway programming with local partners, including
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-- DRAFT -internships in alignment with the regional industry cluster analysis provided by the greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

 Becoming a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) district to foster innovation and creativity  Procure updated standards-aligned science, social studies, fine arts, CTAE, physical education, and world language instructional materials  Develop a repository of video lessons aligned to College and Career Readiness Standards  Seek to balance leadership workloads among job-alike leaders and provide additional supports, resources, and recognition  Expand partnerships with universities  Increase student participation and performance in high school accelerated mechanisms (Advanced Placement (AP), Dual Enrollment (DE), International Baccalaureate (IB), etc.)  Expand promising early literacy programs and practices  Expand dual language opportunities

Priority: Equity, Culture, and Context
The area of Equity, culture and context pertains to the dynamics within the Muscogee County School District that contribute to or detract from the District’s efforts to ensure that all of its students have access to a high-quality school environment in order for the district to achieve its stated mission. It is of paramount importance that the “espoused” culture and values of the district align with the “actual” values that exist throughout the system. The District must continually work to refine its aspirations for the mission, vision, values, and shared beliefs that define the organizational culture. It must work to ensure that all stakeholders understand their responsibility for maintaining and sustaining its espoused values. However, supporting evidence suggests that there are current and future challenges to fulfilling these organizational values and beliefs and doing so will be an ongoing process. Culture, context and equity issues are perpetually susceptible to changing economic, political, demographic, cultural and social conditions at the local, state and national levels.

Accolades and Attributes
The MCSD has a long and storied history of innovative educational institutions and practices. MCSD served as the genesis for Columbus State University, Columbus Technical College, and Jordan Vocational High School which was the nation’s first vocational high school. Its affiliation with the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, the Columbus Museum, and Fort Benning are additional examples of the unique symbiotic relationships that have emerged over the years. Various other parent organizations such
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-- DRAFT -as the Sarah Spano Clothing Bank further support the needs of students. It is imperative that efforts continue to strengthen these relations going forward. Many MCSD schools enjoy the benefit of tradition through established active alumni and community organizations. These groups contribute greatly to the District’s culture and readily supplement its social, emotional, and academic improvement efforts. Athletic programs within the district have been a source of pride as a result of regional and state championships in various sports. Numerous students have earned scholarships to play at the collegiate level and several have gone on to distinguish themselves as professional athletes. The MCSD in concert with the Leadership Institute at the Cunningham Center initiated the development of a five-year Strategic Plan for the district. Eliciting stakeholder input was a significant step in the process and served as an important basis for informing the plan’s development. Focus group results were utilized to address negative perceptions toward accomplishing an overall goal of a high-quality education for all students.

Primary Challenges and Barriers
As previously noted, the MCSD has tremendous public-private partnerships. There is, however, evidence to suggest that similar improvement efforts are being addressed by multiple entities. An opportunity exists to realign these resources to eliminate redundancies and redirect support toward other needs within the community. Like most school districts throughout the country, the MCSD has a disproportionate number and percentage of minority students receiving out-ofschool suspensions. This has obvious implications due to students missing instructional time. There has been a downward trend in out-of-school suspensions for the total student population over the last three years. However, disparities still exist for minority and special education students which bear monitoring and corrective action.

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-- DRAFT --

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-- DRAFT -A summary of focus groups results revealed that the most commonly listed positive perception of the district was that its employees were hardworking, committed and passionate (37%). Conversely, the most commonly listed negative perception of the district was funding and resource allocations (23%), inequity among schools (19%), and issues of trust (16%). When asked why they and others believed these negative perceptions to be true, respondents indicated the following:         Perception of wasted money (30%) Lack of trust (27%) School Board issues (27%) Perceived inequities among schools (84%) Lack of communication (60%) Too many state and national mandates (80%) Administrative disconnect (78%) Lack of parental involvement (73%)

When asked, “For what should the MCSD be known?” Responses were:  Quality education for all students (23%)  High academic standards and excellence (21%)  Graduating productive, well-rounded, life-long learners (19%) When asked “What do you think it will take to make this happen?” Responses revealed:  Support (42%)  Transparency (24%)  A great place to work (21%)

Planned Initiatives Immediate
 Revisit the school district mission, vision, and core value statements  Establish a proactive, problem-solving vision with a focus on children  Develop and communicate a commitment for equity, excellence, and high expectations for all

 Integrate interventions such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) into the Behavior Code and Discipline Policy and communicate expectations for use  Revisit the Behavior Code and Discipline Policy with stakeholders and actively inform teachers, parents, students, and administration on implementation  Increase articulation with Fort Benning in order to facilitate student transition  Re-engage at-risk students through Service Learning and mentorship opportunities
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-- DRAFT - Celebrate individual and group leaders who actively promote, celebrate, recognize, and reinforce a culture of servant leadership

 Shift the district from compliance to systemic change agent  Assess and align the District’s equity-based initiatives  Develop a long-term plan dedicated to narrowing the gap and eliminating racial predictability and disproportionality  Clarify the role of district office as Servant Leaders in support of schools  Infuse a “college and career readiness” culture in all secondary schools, starting at the middle level  Support “family friendly” workplace practices and policies  Develop and conduct surveys to measure cultural elements

Priority: High-Quality Staff
One of the most critical elements in the success of any organization is the quality of the staff it employs. For this reason, recruiting, selecting, inducting and sustaining highly effective staff is one of the greatest challenges facing today’s school systems. MCSD must outperform its competitors in each of these elements if it hopes to instill a sense of pride and privilege toward becoming the premiere school district in Georgia and the nation. Not surprisingly, research repeatedly has shown that students who are taught by effective teachers achieve more academically than their peers who are taught by less effective teachers (Mendro, Jordan, Gomez, Anderson, and Bembry, 1998; Sanders and Horn, 1998; Strange and Ward, 2002). Likewise, various studies and meta-analyses have indicated that clear direction and focused leadership through defined autonomy have a positive impact on student achievement.

Accolades and Attributes
The average teaching experience for the District’s teachers is twelve (12) years. More than sixty-five (65) percent of the teachers in the MCSD have Master’s degree or higher; seventy-four (74) have doctorates. There are thirty-two (32) teachers that have National Board Certification, sixteen (16) have been designated Georgia Master Teachers, and six (6) administrators have been designated as High Performance Principals. Realizing that much of the success of any community depends upon the quality of its local schools, a group of devoted citizens who had a long-standing commitment to education organized the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation (MEEF). Unlike many education foundations, MEEF exists primarily to enhance the quality of the MCSD by focusing on the individuals that research indicates have the most impact on students – the teachers. With the assistance of private donations, MEEF has established itself as one of the leading advocates for
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-- DRAFT -educational excellence in public education in the region. Most recently, MEEF has planned and coordinated the full sponsorship of select Teachers-of-the-Year to attend a week-long professional seminar at Harvard University where participants learn from some of the preeminent educational scholars in the world. In return, these teachers are expected to share what they have learned with their MCSD colleagues. The District is commended for instituting a Summer Leadership Academy that offers several professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators. There has been a positive shift over the last few years to provide training focused on the movement towards standards-based classrooms.

Primary Challenges and Barriers
There is a need to individualize professional learning based on evaluation results and student achievement data. The school district should build internal capacity in order to reduce the number and cost associated with external consultants. Likewise, there is a need to explore the utilization of on-demand, virtual professional learning, thus allowing teacher and administrator access anytime and anywhere. As previously noted, ESPLOST has afforded teachers across the system access to a multitude of technological devices to deliver instruction. Efforts must be continued to increase effective technology integration into the teaching and learning process by teachers and students alike. A preliminary review of current staff and responsibilities indicates the need to reexamine how staff are allocated. Furthermore, there is a demonstrated need to broaden the knowledge and expertise of support staff through cross-training initiatives to increase efficiency and productivity. Student access to college level credit-bearing courses varies widely from high school to high school within the district. Currently, students do not have the option to participate in dual enrollment courses on their respective high school campuses which presents an equity barrier for those without transportation. This will require the initiation of an adjunct credentialing process for select MCSD teachers through a post-secondary partnership. Likewise, a full array of Advanced Placement courses should be offered by highly qualified teachers that have completed a district credential process.

Planned Initiatives Immediate
 Repurpose current district staff to serve as regional professional learning and subject-specific content specialists to effectively support, coach, and mentor teachers  Completion of Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional learning by school-based administrators and academic coaches
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-- DRAFT - Create a succession management plan that proactively builds a diverse pool of future district leaders, principals, and assistant principals

 Building upon the work previously begun relative to standards-based classrooms and provide support and training in moving from a behaviorist to constructivist theory of learning in alignment with newer, higher performance standards and assessments.  Develop a professional learning plan focused on high-yield instructional strategies and practices  Completion of Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional learning by all teachers and select district personnel  Recruit and retain high performing teachers, administrators, and senior staff  Affiliate with colleges and universities to establish adjunct credentialing process, to recruit interns and recent graduates, and to address diversity needs  Examine current evaluation practices and align professional learning initiatives with School Improvement Plans, Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES), and Leader Keys Effectiveness System (LKES)  Continue professional learning focused on technology integration (teacher and student)  Leverage additional support and resources for first-year and developing teachers and school-based administrators  Identify and develop model classrooms across grade levels for teacher observation  Create more opportunities for teachers to visit one another’s classrooms and collaborate with one another  Establish a focus on ongoing, job-embedded professional learning for all  Evaluate the cost effectiveness of increasing access to professional learning through an virtual (on-line) professional learning system

 Establish Assistant Principal and Principal Internship Program  Broaden the implementation of Lesson Study to all schools  Establish research and development evaluator position to strategically analyze innovative programs and practices  Work with realtors to establish a teacher village  Analyze the effectiveness of professional learning on student achievement by teacher  Match principals with community CEO’s to enhance social and professional capital

Priority: Operations
The area of operations entails efficiency effectiveness pertaining to fiscal, human resources, facilities, transportation, information technology, security and materials management.

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-- DRAFT -Accolades and Attributes
The MCSD has benefitted greatly from the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) passed in 2003 and 2009. It has afforded the district opportunities to provide technology infrastructure, security measures, and capital improvements via renovations and new construction projects that would not have been possible otherwise, or would have adversely impacted the general fund budget. For example, ESPLOST provided $40 million for district-wide computer refresh and related infrastructure, the renovation of Carver High School and Kinnett Stadium, the construction of Aaron Cohn Middle and Dorothy Height Elementary Schools, as well as the new Fine Arts Academy for which planning is underway. The District is highly commended for its commitment to the creation of a Fine Arts Academy that will provide artistically gifted and talented students the same opportunity that is afforded to others in similarly sized districts within the state. The vision of establishing a six through twelve grade configuration ensures a fine arts continuum within in the district. In addition, this concept assures equity of access by permitting interested students to hone their artistic ability in order to compete for merit-based entrance into the high school program. The MCSD has maintained a positive collegial relationship with the City of Columbus and other joint partners that often lead to mutually beneficial land purchases and trades. Likewise, a good working relationship with local law enforcement agencies has also proven to be productive and efficient.

Primary Challenges and Barriers
The greatest challenge in maintaining and promoting thoughtful and prioritized resource allocations has been the constant decline of fiscal resources previously mentioned. Fewer resources obviously impact which programs will be funded and how they will be distributed. For example, the District’s aging bus fleet is approximately four (4) years behind the recommended replacement schedule and the current average age of school buildings is forty-three (43) years. There is no established maintenance schedule for maintaining the aesthetic appearance of schools such as routine painting, landscaping, and paving of schools. Additionally, athletic facilities, music rooms, instruments, and equipment need to be updated. The joint use of Memorial Stadium by the District and city has led to limited availability of this venue. This has resulted in scheduling difficulties and an undue hardship on the district’s only alternate, Kinnett Stadium, which accommodated fifty-two (52) athletic contests this past fall. On a larger scale, the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) at Fort Benning had less effect on the District’s student enrollment than originally
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-- DRAFT -anticipated. This led to the premature construction of schools within the district and a surplus of available student seats. However, current growth projections indicate that the capacity at these schools will be reached within the foreseeable future as more families move to the northern portion of Muscogee County. Another BRAC is currently under consideration that bears monitoring for its potential future impact. With the consolidation of Muscogee and Cusseta Road Elementary Schools to the new Dorothy Height facility, there is a continuing need to consider future school closures and/or consolidations to increase efficiency and programmatic effectiveness. Although the district purchased an information management system known as BusinessPlus, budget reductions prevented the implementation of several modules, thus limiting its optimal capacity. MCSD maintains two separate compensation/salary plans. The first is the Teacher and Educational Leader State of Georgia Salary Schedules. Their administration is guided by state law and regulations, and currently includes consideration for additional education and years of service up to twenty-one (21) years in teaching and educational leadership. Approximately seventy-five (75) percent of our teaching and leadership positions are funded by the State’s Quality Basic Education (QBE) allotment, received each fall based on the prior year’s Certified Personnel Index Report and the district Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) student counts sent to the state. The other teacher and building leader positions not covered by the QBE funding are funded out of the local tax digest. The District has included in all of its budgets the continued financing of these years of experience step increases built into the salary schedule. Outside of the step increases, the State nor the District have provided for any other salary adjustments to the teacher and building leader salary schedule since 2008. The second compensation plan that MCSD maintains is the classified and professional salary grades and ranges. The State does not direct local districts on the pay systems they set up for non-certificated positions. These grades and salary ranges were set up with the assistance of Hay Consultants in 1997 for the professional salaried positions in the District, and in 2003 for the classified/support positions. The plans were designed to support a “pay for performance” process for salary increases, and do not include any additional compensation for increased education or years of experience. In 2006 and 2007, the District did add a component of years of experience for the following positions: bus drivers and skilled/licensed maintenance positions. In 2012, the District added a component for years of experience for culinary technicians, which is within the separate Nutrition Program budget. No market adjustments to the ranges, or any other salary increases/adjustments, have been administered since 2007.
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-- DRAFT -The most pressing issue facing a fair and equitable pay system for MCSD employees is the extreme compensation compression that has resulted from not administering any increases for the past five years. Almost fifty (50) percent of the classified and professional employees are still at the “entry” salary for the range of their position. There is no component of the system that creates a path for employees to get to the one hundred (100) percent point of that position’s market range. Therefore, employees with more than five (5) years of experience and training in a position are making exactly the same as a brand new employee to the district. Apart from an across-the-board increase, which has not been possible while furlough days were required to balance the budget, there is no growth to be anticipated by an employee in these pay systems. This has created a high dissatisfaction with career progression within positions. It has also halted promotion from within the district, as it has discouraged highly qualified teachers and building leaders from leaving the state salary schedules, since their pay is essentially stagnate the remainder of their career. It will be critical in the next few years to find cost-effective means, within our budget limitations, to ease this compression issue.

Planned Initiatives Immediate
 Develop and implement a district-wide Staffing Plan to ensure equitable personnel allocations  Complete assessment of all district level staff, job descriptions, and functions  Initiate process and performance management to promote efficiency and effectiveness  Establish district-wide progressive discipline policies and procedures  Create proposal for taking small measures to begin addressing Hay Study salary disparities  Conduct work flow analysis of departments to determine peak intervals necessitating the shifting of human resources  Analyze student hardships and magnet program transfers to determine their impact on school enrollments and the transportation budget

 Establish a strategic, aligned, prioritized, and balanced budget  Solicit advice from local credentialed financial professionals regarding budgetary matters  Review insurance benefit plans to determine cost avoidance  Present recommendation of prioritized capital projects  Establish minimum design parameters for the construction of new schools
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-- DRAFT - Standardize minimum specifications for purchasing new furniture, fixtures, equipment, and uniforms  Repurpose resources to highest priority schools  Allow greater autonomy for schools and administrators with proven success

 Restore fund balance (district reserves) equivalent to a minimum of two months  Rethink the design, alignment, and investment of operations and budget with the District Strategic Plan

Priority: Communication and Transparent Accountability
By virtue of the fact that public school systems are funded by the local and state communities they serve, stakeholders can and should hold high expectations for transparency and communication. It is important that stakeholders understand how decisions are made, on what facts, data or research they are based, and what opportunities they have to be informed or to contribute to the decision-making process. This is equally true for internal stakeholders who are obviously reliant upon clear, concise, and accurate information to perform their respective roles and who serve as ambassadors for the system in the community at large. Clearly, communication and transparency are critical to building trust and instilling confidence within the organization and throughout the community.

Accolades and Attributes
The Finance Department has earned the Certificate of Excellence from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada for twenty-five (25) consecutive years. It has also earned the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Association of School Business Officials International for nineteen (19) consecutive years. This serves as a testament to the District’s commitment to financial accountability and transparency. Over the last seven years, the Department of Communications has received at least 19 awards including top recognitions from the National Schools Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the Georgia Schools Public Relations Association (GSPRA).

Primary Challenges and Barriers
Typical of large organizations, communication within and between internal and external stakeholders presents an ongoing challenge. While efforts to improve in this area are evident, significant challenges remain as noted by the AdvancedEd accreditation team. There are a number of avenues to communicate and inform internally and externally, but relatively few take advantage of the opportunities that are currently
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-- DRAFT -in place to receive input and provide feedback. The district website has been reported as not being user-friendly by both internal and external users. There is noted low attendance of employees and the general public at Board meetings as well as public forums. Furthermore, feedback has been received regarding the need for communications to be available in additional languages. Internal email communication is sometimes in lengthy narrative format. Moreover, there were complaints of multiple revisions to original emails leading to confusion and frustration by receiving staff.

Planned Initiatives Immediate
 Standardize internal email communication format to promote clear and concise messaging  Work to ensure two-way flow of information to stakeholders  Establish distinct systems and expectations for collaboration within each region and throughout the district  Expect all MCSD employees to adhere to the District’s core values  Define minimum expectations for district and school websites  Establish an extension of the Superintendent’s Cabinet to periodically include director level positions and above in order to enhance communication and broaden vision  Continue to use student, principal and teacher advisory committees as a means of providing two-way communication between schools and the district

 Communicate the expectation that schools act in alignment with the District’s commitment to narrowing gaps and hold schools accountable for doing so  Benchmark and develop dashboards correlated to the District’s Strategic Plan  Increase transparency in communications regarding the current budget allocation process  Continue meeting with focus and advisory groups initiated in the first 120 days  Continue to conduct Editorial Boards  Enhance communication through radio and television broadcasts  Provide a “State of the District” Annual Report to the School Board and public  Develop and disseminate a report for each school summarizing progress toward meeting School Improvement Plan goals  Incorporate social media at the school level, as appropriate  Initiate the use of press conferences announcing major initiatives, awards, and events  Strengthen capabilities of the MCSD parent portal  Differentiate and enhance parent and community engagement strategies

 Complete Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis
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-- DRAFT - Partner with community athletic leagues to reach out to parents and at-risk students  Collaborate with Columbus Consolidated Government Television (CCG-TV) and the City Council  Open parent advocacy centers throughout the district to assist parents in navigating the school district  Review and revise the community engagement plan to involve all constituencies  Increase transparency and involvement in future budgeting processes

Superintendent David Lewis offers this report as an overview of his personal observation and analyses respective of the accolades, attributes, challenges and barriers of the Muscogee County School District, as well as his initial recommendations for immediate, near- and long-term planned initiatives to guide the work of the district over the next decade. As noted at the outset of this report, recommended and planned initiatives are subject to funding availability, legislative changes, and other unpredictable factors. Regardless, these initiatives and their success are predicated on the following ideals:  A high quality education is a fundamental right of all children  Learning is at the core of everything we do and every adult in the system is responsible for positively contributing to the academic success of our students  Parents are partners and are our students’ first and best teachers  Hard work, perseverance, and grit matter  Personal responsibility, character, and integrity are valued  Schools are microcosms of society and there is no silver bullet for improving them While some of the planned initiatives may seem dramatic or the timeline ambitious, the previously noted achievement and performance gaps suggest that a more aggressive approach is necessary to promote full-option gradation and global competitiveness for Muscogee County School District students. This will also require the aforementioned increased expectations, deliberate urgency, political courage, efficient and effective resource allocation, and community commitment by all MCSD stakeholders that exceeds that of any other urban school district in the nation. With this in mind, it is Superintendent Lewis’ belief that the MCSD is indeed poised for greatness. During the first 120 days of his tenure, he has seen first-hand the dedication of staff that appear eager to improve, the unparalleled publicprivate partnerships that augment and support district efforts, an active arts community that enhances artistic opportunities, and a community at large that believes in public education. In addition, the MCSD is the optimal size in that it is large enough to garner
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-- DRAFT -resources that are not available in smaller districts, and yet it is not so large as to be impossible to implement initiatives with fidelity. In closing, Superintendent Lewis extends his deepest gratitude to all of the internal and external stakeholders who shared their perspectives and insight or contributed in any way to this report. Working together, we can and will fulfill the call to action to improve the educational outcomes and lives of our children on the way to becoming a premiere school district in the state and nation.

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-- DRAFT -Appendix A Proposed Regional Supervisory Zones
Region One PK-12 Regional ChiefWest Allen Elementary Davis Elementary Double Churches Elem. Downtown Elementary Fox Elementary Hannan Elementary Johnson Elementary North Columbus Elementary River Road Elementary Region Two PK-12 Regional ChiefCentral Elementary Schools Blanchard Elementary Brewer Elementary Clubview Elementary Dorothy Height Elem. Eagle Ridge Academy Gentian Elementary Key Elementary Martin Luther King Elementary Ridgon Road Elementary South Columbus Elem. Wynnton Arts Academy Elementary Magnets Middle Schools Baker Middle Blackmon Road Middle

Region Three PK-12 Regional ChiefEast Dawson Elementary Dimon Elementary Forrest Road Elementary Georgetown Elementary Lonnie Jackson Elem. Matthews Elementary Midland Academy Reese Road Elementary St. Mary’s Elementary Waddell Elementary Wesley Heights Elem.

Britt David Elementary Arnold Magnet Academy Double Churches Middle Aaron Cohn Middle East Columbus Magnet Academy Veterans Memorial Middle Eddy Middle Fort Middle Richards Middle Midland Middle Rothschild Middle Middle and/or Senior High Magnet Schools Columbus High New Fine Arts School Early College Academy High Schools Jordan High Carver High Kendrick High Northside High Hardaway High Spencer High Shaw High District-Wide Alternative Programs Anne Elizabeth Shepherd AIM @ Edgewood Home (AESH) St Elmo Center Woodall Total Number of Schools 20 19 19

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Appendix B

Proposed Regional Organization

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-- DRAFT -Listen and Learn Acknowledgements Educators

Community Stakeholders

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-- DRAFT -Community Stakeholders Continued


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